Crampons, microspikes, traction devices — call them what you will. But if you ever plan to run, walk, or hike in icy, wintry conditions, you’ll want a pair of these.
Hillsound Equipment wasn’t messing around when it designed its new low-profile crampons. The FlexSteps ($55) are what the brand calls “chain-free crampons,” built to perform on everything from an icy walk down a steep driveway to a 9-mile winter waterfall hike — even a slippery and snowy winter trail run.
I put my pair through the wringer — two winters and counting — and love the wide range of sizing and flexibility. The FlexSteps have a rubber elastomer harness and straps that wrap around to fit over a variety of footwear, from my minimalist Salomon running shoe to my most dense hiking boot.
In short: For two winter seasons now, I’ve been wearing and testing Hillsound’s FlexSteps, and not to be cliche, but they have blown me away. They are light, packable, easy to get on and off with gloves or mittens, and have successfully carried me across dozens of icy and snowy miles on the trail.
No-Chain Spikes: Hillsound FlexSteps
Contrary to other traction devices, Hillsound’s FlexSteps don’t involve a tangled mess of links and chains or a maze of crisscrossing straps underfoot. And they’re not too heavy or bulky to bring on even the lightest winter running endeavor. Trust me, heavy-duty traction has its time and place, and even Hillsound makes some beefier models, but the FlexSteps have myriad amazing uses.
First, a note about the construction. FlexSteps have an elastomer (rubber) harness with riveted attachment points that connect two main heel and toe plates underneath. And the bottoms of the FlexSteps are dotted with a healthy dose of small steel spikes.
- Traction: 18 x 1/5-inch stainless steel spikes (not the most extreme traction out there, but great for 90% of my winter outings)
- Construction: Rubberized toe and heel plates, silicone elastomer rubber harness/strap
- Closure/fit: Velcro strap across top of foot for better fit
- Weight: 11.9 oz (size extra small), 12.3 oz. claimed weight (size medium)
- Price: $55
There’s no untwisting links or trouble stepping into the traction, and there’s no snowballing or catching underfoot. And with the impressive amount of spikes Hillsound fit on the footplates, there’s nothing but pure confidence when you step on a patch of ice.
On the flip side, when I was hiking through varied terrain (like a section of trail with snow and rocks), I wasn’t worried about damaging the spikes. They are small but sharp and do a great job of providing traction.
Finally, with more elastomer than metal, the pair is also pretty light. One concern I had before I first tried them was the straps: making sure there was no sliding or slipping.
I haven’t had any issues with the straps, and I found the sizing accurate and the fit secure. I have both a size extra small and small. The extra small fits nicely on all of my go-to trail runners, so I use those the most.
- They are comfortable! Seriously, I test gear all the time, and even if a brand invents cool tech, it’s not much good if it’s not comfortable.
- I was pleasantly surprised by how easily the FlexSteps strap on and off — even with bulky gloves and in dark conditions.
- They are minimalist (yet functional) and packable.
- Great price — $55.
- Durable — my pair has conquered nearly 100 miles of icy and wintry terrain.
Overall, I’ve really enjoyed using the FlexSteps, especially for hikes at higher elevations as well as winter running on icy and questionable surfaces. For 90% of my winter outings where I’ve needed traction, the Hillsound FlexSteps have been the perfect choice.